Goalkeeper Kevin Hartman will be checking in with fans all season with his weekly diary on LAGalaxy.com. Drafted out of UCLA as a third-round pick in 1997, this is Kevin's eighth MLS season.
When the Los Angeles Galaxy captured three points versus Columbus, I was excited. Part of it had to do with the two days of rest that we had coming on Sunday and Monday. We deserved it, although I wouldn't get to truly appreciate it because I'd be in Dallas with the U.S national team. It was then that I started to try and figure out the motivating factors that made me want to succeed in soccer.
As a professional soccer player, I've always sought different forms of motivation to keep me headed in the right direction. I've dedicated games to my grandfather who was like a father to me, played seasons to secure contracts, and I've won championships to feel accomplished. But, week in and week out, it's the smaller things that motivate me. I've often heard that if I was unhappy with my job, that my friends would jump at the chance to be a pro soccer player.
That led me to think of one of my best friends, Socrates (all names have been changed to protect the innocent). Socrates works for a real estate company and lives comfortably in Los Angeles on about $300,000 annually. His hours are flexible, he just bought a new house in Redondo Beach, he has a retirement fund, and his future is very bright. If he keeps it up, he'll live a great life and will probably die grin down in a big pile of black chips at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. Most likely it will be on a Saturday night.
But Socrates would have a huge decision to make if I presented him with the opportunity to play soccer professionally. His Dad played at Newcastle and he loves the game. But would that be enough for him to choose a Saturday night at The Home Depot Center over a Saturday night in Vegas? I'm not sure, but the fact that he would contemplate it makes me wonder. I am in love with his life but if he says he would actually weigh it against an MLS career, then I must be all right. I might even be lucky.
So, I play for the guys who enjoy their Saturdays out. Whether it's at The Home Depot Center or at a 7 o'clock showing of "13 Going on 30." I play so they can still enjoy soccer even if they sleep through the first half of the Sunday morning Premier League match.
My creativity makes motivation easy and fun. I try to get shutouts at home because in the end, I think of the Krispy Kreme on Artesia Blvd. (near The Home Depot Center) filled to capacity with fans trading in tickets for doughnuts. In Kansas City, I think of Wizards fans going home hungry after missing out on the Papa John Two Minutes, in which all fans get a pizza if one of the Wizards scores during that allotment.
Three points will always be one of the biggest motivating factors of my life. If I'm able to walk away from a stadium with a win, my week is normal. I know it's sad, but there is more relief than joy. Perhaps it's because of last year's tribulations, but I know that losing creates havoc in my life. The coaches worry, the players worry, and we all probably overreact. A loss by itself is part of soccer (unless you play for Arsenal) but when coupled with the previously mentioned season, it's a step in the wrong direction, a step toward that last game in San Jose. No one wants to go in that direction so we work hard to assure ourselves that we are instead again heading toward MLS Cup.
Some people might call that playing scared. I tend to disagree. As a goalkeeper every mistake is magnified, and if you make mistakes, they usually end in goals. So it's not so much that I'm scared of losing, it's just that I hate it! The panic button, the worry, the road winless streak, and the inevitable unhappy Kevin are the real reasons I want to win. When we win, it means single practices; interviews about Carlos, a Kevin everybody can be happy with, and the bills get paid.
Now, all I need is that retirement fund.